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The Guardian Building

Cathedral of Finance

James W. Tottis

Award Winner

Architecture, Detroit

Painted Turtle

Hardback
Published: September 2008
ISBN: 9780814333853
Pages: 192 Size: 9x12
Illustrations: 133
Review

At last Detroit's magnificent Guardian Building has gotten the book it deserves. Author Jim Tottis illustrates the genius of architect Wirt C. Rowland and his most important creation in splendid detail.

— John Gallagher

The years between World War I and the economic collapse of 1929 witnessed Detroit’s greatest building boom. Perhaps the most recognizable and innovative structure erected during that era was the Union Trust Building, now known as the Guardian Building. Designed by Wirt Rowland—of the firm Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls—the Guardian’s expressive Gothic-inspired elements, bright orange brick facade, and brightly colored ceramic accents immediately set it apart from the surrounding buildings of Detroit’s financial district. The interior is similarly extravagant, with a lobby ceiling made entirely of multicolored tiles, walls and floors accented by exotic marbles, and platinum-colored Monel metal elevator doors, gates, and handrails.

In The Guardian Building James W. Tottis tells the story of the opulent block-long tower, the influential company that commissioned it, and the under-appreciated architect responsible for its design. In full-color historic and contemporary photos, Tottis details everything from the china designed by the architect for use in the Guardian dining room to the building’s rarely seen upper banking room. Tottis also investigates the sources of design and materials for the Guardian, finding that it brought together the finest artisans, craftsmen, and firms of the time, including Rookwood Pottery, Pewabic Pottery, Moline Furniture Works, architectural sculptor Joe Parducci, and muralist Ezra Winter.

The thorough history and visual tour of The Guardian Building proves that even among the many significant Depression-era buildings of Detroit, the Guardian is unique. Architecture buffs as well as those interested in Detroit history and culture will enjoy this elegant and informative volume.

Published by: Painted Turtle

James W. Tottis, formerly a curator in the department of American art at the Detroit Institute of Arts is currently an independent curator advising individuals and institutions on subjects related to American art.

Anyone who loves architecture or downtown Detroit in likely to be intrigued by The Guardian Building: Cathedral of Finance, a sumptuously illustrated new book by James W. Tottis, the associate curator of American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Designed by Detroit architect Wirt Rowland, the orange-brick Guardian Building is one of America's more-exuberant art deco skyscrapers, and an experience not to be missed."

– Detroit News

At last Detroit's magnificent Guardian Building has gotten the book it deserves. Author Jim Tottis illustrates the genius of architect Wirt C. Rowland and his most important creation in splendid detail."

– John Gallagher, architecture critic, Detroit Free Press, and co-author of <a href="http://wsupress.wayne.edu/books/2/AIA-Detroit">AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture</a>

The outstanding downtown monument represents a superior achievement from the last great decade for stone-and-brick-clad buildings. Built just before the onset of the Great Depression, it drew on the talents of the area's craftsmen and artisans, as well as remarkable aesthetic sensibility of architect Wirt C. Rowland. Author James W. Tottis offers a tour of the building from top to bottom, accompanied with 133 handsome illustrations and photographs."

– MetroTimes

The Guardian Building by James W. Tottis provides a beautifully illustrated history and visual tour of the Guardian Building that will have special appeal to today's students of architecture. A work of seminal scholarship which is enhanced with color palates, notes, a bibliography and an index, The Guardian Building is confidently recommended as an informed and informative addition to professional and academic Architectural Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists."

– Midwest Book Review

A work of exacting scholarship, James Tottis's treatise on Detroit's Guardian Building is likely to be the final word on one of the greatest art deco skyscrapers in the United States. He also begins the process of excavating the life and career of Wirt C. Rowland, the Guardian's great, elusive architect."

– Robert Sharoff, co-author of <a href="http://wsupress.wayne.edu/americancity">American City: Detroit Architecture, 1845-2005 </a>

  • 2008 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Finalist in the category of Architecture